How To Love Yourself While Living With Depression & Anxiety

How To Love Yourself While Living With Depression & Anxiety

Accept the love that YOU deserve.
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I will never forget the day that my doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I felt both a sense of relief, for finally knowing what was causing me to feel like a person who barely existed anymore, and a sense of both dread and embarrassment. When I looked at myself in the mirror I did not see your "textbook" depressed female; I saw a 22-year-old who worked multiple jobs, went to school and had a fairly active social life. How was I depressed? But as my doctor continued to ask me questions about how certain scenarios made me feel, or how I reacted to various things I began to understand what so many people still don't... there is no mold for a person who suffers from depression and anxiety and they affect everybody in very different ways. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn, to not compare myself to how others react to and handle their mental illness. What has helped me with this disease has been to identify five different ways that I can work towards bettering and loving myself while living with both depression and anxiety.

1. Have a Support System

When you suffer from mental illness, many days you just want to be alone, push people away and do your own thing. But this can actually do more harm than good because as you spend more and more time alone, the easier it is to become overwhelmed by all the negativity and fear running through your mind. It is important to have people you can turn to when you feel down, or even better have that person who knows you need them before you even have to ask. I could not make it through my anxiety attacks without my sweet husband. He is my rock when it comes to dealing with my mental health. Panic attacks for me are ugly. Hyperventilating on the kitchen floor, trying to pull my hair out, ugly. Many people would shy away from this scene, but my husband embraces it as part of who I am, and then he literally embraces me. He reminds me of my worth and my strength. He comforts me in my weakness. And he reminds me that I've made it through this before and I'll do it again. I could not get through these attacks without him and my handful of other close friends who keep me going at my worst. So even if you want to push them away; use your support system. You need them.

2. Do The Things You Enjoy

This is our life right? So why do we let others choose what can and cannot make us happy? We already spend so much time trying to please others, so why not let ourselves have some joy in the things that we love. When I am feeling extra anxious or down, I love getting my sketchpad out and doodling. I am not the best artist, my "work" would never be of any worth to anyone else, but to me, it shows improvement. It shows that instead of curling up in bed and crying, I made myself do something. It is so helpful to have a psychical reminder of success when it comes to dealing with mental illness. Something you can look at and say "I did that!" So if you like to paint, draw, craft, cook, bake or make balloon animals, do it! Allow yourself that joy.

3. Be Active

Any doctor will tell you that exercise is crucial to staying healthy, even more so for someone who deals with mental health. Endorphin's make you happy, right? We need more happy feelings in our brains right? It is so good to be active. But for someone like myself who deals with anxiety, thinking about going to the gym is enough to send me straight to bed with the covers pulled over my head. I am working so hard to be comfortable with my body but some days the gym is not part of the plan because I literally cannot go inside. I'm not even exaggerating here. I have gotten ready, got in my car and driven to the gym and then sat in said car and cried because I was so anxious about going inside.

It sounds so pathetic, right? Sitting in my car, crying before going to the gym of all places. But for me, it is a reality. A not very fun reality. But instead of letting that get to me and keep from getting the exercise that I needed, I have learned to be creative in the ways I get my physical activity in. If you put the effort in, you can find so many ways to keep yourself healthy. A big one for me is to take in all the beauty that Utah has to offer. Since moving here, my husband and I have spent so much time outside exploring and hiking, and because it is so much fun, I do not even realize that I am working out! I also try to find a way to at least stretch every day. I often get that stretching in at work, where I teach Pre-K. My students love "workout" time and it’s a huge mood booster for myself to see them having so much fun and I'm able to get my blood pumping too. I am not perfect about working out and always eating the right way, but I do notice a huge change in my mood and outlook when I push myself to be active. Working out and being active will help improve your mental health in so many ways, you just have to find a way that makes it fun for you!

4. Don't expect perfection.

This is the hardest point for me personally. I am literally working on this every single day. And I will probably be working on it for the rest of my life. Depression and anxiety can be worsened when we constantly compare ourselves to those around us, the images we see on television and the internet and, the worst of all, old versions of our self. Comparing myself now to who I was "pre-depression" is a guaranteed way to make me feel bad about myself. I look at pictures and recall activities that I was participating in then and I realize that I am not doing any of those things now because some days it is hard to leave the house to get groceries. Do not do this to yourself. It just simply is not fair. We are changing every day. I am not supposed to be the same person that I was 5 years ago. If I was, then I would not be progressing the way that I am supposed to. I might have gained more weight than I planned on because of health issues, and I might not have as many "friends" as I did when I was 18, but I have had experiences that have made me an overall stronger person. Focusing on the "whole picture" is very important. The anxiety makes it easy to break down every minute detail about your past and present self, but those small details are not what matters. What matters is taking the experiences and challenges you are given and using them to become the best version of yourself. To quote Hannah Montana, "Nobody's perfect! I gotta work it! Again and again 'til I get it right..." Expecting perfection is a dangerous thing. Instead, strive to live each day the best that you can, know your limits and your goals and forget what the world thinks. Every day that we get up and push on, is a day that I count as a success!
I hope that if you are reading this and you are someone that struggles with depression and anxiety or any form of mental illness, that you know that it is possible to love yourself while living with this disease. We are so much more than our limitations. But we have to make the conscious choice to love ourselves; the choice to include others in our lives, the choice to follow your passion, the choice to be active and the choice to not allow perfection to be your goal. The path to not just existing starts with a choice to love yourself. And speaking from personal experience, that choice is the best one you can make.

Cover Image Credit: whitepaperbooks.com

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To All The Nurses In The Making

We tell ourselves that one day it'll all pay off, but will it actually?
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I bet you’re taking a break from studying right now just to read this, aren’t you? Either at the library with friends or in your dorm room. Wherever you may be, you never get the chance to put your books down, at least that’s how it feels to most of us. It sucks feeling like you’ve chosen the hardest major in the world, especially when you see other students barely spending any time studying or doing school work. The exclamation “You’re still here!” is an all too frequent expression from fellow students after recognizing that you’ve spent 10-plus hours in the library. At first it didn’t seem so bad and you told yourself, “This isn’t so difficult, I can handle it,” but fast-forward a few months and you’re questioning if this is really what you want to do with your life.

You can’t keep track of the amount of mental breakdowns you’ve had, how much coffee you’ve consumed, or how many times you’ve called your mom to tell her that you’re dropping out. Nursing is no joke. Half the time it makes you want to go back and change your major, and the other half reminds you why you want to do this, and that is what gets you through it. The thing about being a nursing major is that despite all the difficult exams, labs and overwhelming hours of studying you do, you know that someday you might be the reason someone lives, and you can’t give up on that purpose. We all have our own reasons why we chose nursing -- everyone in your family is a nurse, it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re good at it, or like me, you want to give back to what was given to you. Regardless of what your reasoning is, we all take the same classes, deal with the same professors, and we all have our moments.

I’ve found that groups of students in the same nursing program are like a big family who are unconditionally supportive of each other and offer advice when it’s needed the most. We think that every other college student around us has it so easy, but we know that is not necessarily true. Every major can prove difficult; we’re just a little harder on ourselves. Whenever you feel overwhelmed with your school work and you want to give up, give yourself a minute to imagine where you’ll be in five years -- somewhere in a hospital, taking vitals, and explaining to a patient that everything will be OK. Everything will be worth what we are going through to get to that exact moment.

Remember that the stress and worry about not getting at least a B+ on your anatomy exam is just a small blip of time in our journey; the hours and dedication suck, and it’s those moments that weed us out. Even our advisors tell us that it’s not easy, and they remind us to come up with a back-up plan. Well, I say that if you truly want to be a nurse one day, you must put in your dedication and hard work, study your ass off, stay organized, and you WILL become the nurse you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t let someone discourage you when they relent about how hard nursing is. Take it as motivation to show them that yeah, it is hard, but you know what, I made it through.

With everything you do, give 110 percent and never give up on yourself. If nursing is something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, stick with it and remember the lives you will be impacting someday.

SEE ALSO: Why Nursing School Is Different Than Any Other Major

Cover Image Credit: Kaylee O'Neal

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I'm 22 And I Still Don't Have My Driver's License, But It Doesn't Bother Me

Although sometimes it's inconvenient not to have one, it's not a major concern to me.

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When you turn 16, the one thing you can't wait to do is get your license so you can finally have your first taste of freedom and no longer need your parents to drive you around anywhere.

When I was 16, I had no intentions of getting my license because I had no interest in driving.

I'm 22 now and I still don't have my license. Although sometimes it's inconvenient not to have one, it's not a major concern to me.

Before you ask yourself why I still don't have it, you should know that me not having my license is not entirely a personal decision.

It's part me not trusting myself and part having a disability.

I have cerebral palsy, and if you don't know what that is, it's a disorder of the cerebellum that affects things such as balance, coordination, muscle movements and reaction times.

Having a fast reaction time and strong leg muscles are something that you need in order to drive a car. You've always got to watch for that one crazy driver who blows through the red light and constantly press down on the pedal, because how else would the car move?

Don't get me wrong. I do have my permit. I got it shortly after my eighteenth birthday and taking the test four, yes, four, times. I've been behind the wheel a few times on residential streets in my town, so I know the basics of driving a car, but it's hard for me.

I use my left foot to control both the gas and the break because the cerebral palsy is in the right half of my body. This is unfortunate for me because you need your right foot to drive. I'm not sure how I learned, but I found that using my left foot is a lot easier for me.

But, I learned pretty quickly that you can't do that when taking the actual driving test.

I haven't been behind the wheel of a car in quite a while because, truthfully, I've been busy. When I'm not at work, I'm at school, when I'm not at school, I'm at work.

I'm at school sometimes more than 12 hours a day because of homework and my internship and I work on the weekends at the same place my dad works at, so we ride together.

My mom drops me off at school in the morning before she goes to work and picks me up in the evening and my friends drive to all the concerts we attend.

I don't make that much at work, and my internship is paid but I don't get a lot from there, and I have student loans, a credit card and medical bills and my credit isn't that great yet, so I don't really have any money to buy a car.

Why have a license if I don't have the funds to purchase a car at the moment?

Sure, if I absolutely need a ride somewhere and my parents aren't home, it's a little difficult finding one if all my friends are busy, but that's about the only trouble it gives me.

I'm pretty much a homebody and I only have a few close friends that I enjoy hanging out with, and during the school year, I'm hardly ever home during the day anyway.

It gets a little annoying when my friends, family, co-workers and sometimes professors ask me when I'm going to get my license, but I try to explain it in the nicest way possible.

Without using my disability as the primary excuse, I let them know that I'm just not ready to drive nor do I have any way to purchase a car.

Maybe in the future, when I'm out of school and I have my finances under control, I will work on getting a car AND THEN my license.

I am aware and fully understand that the day will come when my parents won't be here to give me a ride anymore, but everyone else needs to understand that driving is a personal decision and not everyone is ready to do so at the age of 16.

And that's perfectly okay.

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